House debates

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Parliamentary Representation


1:12 pm

Photo of Robert OakeshottRobert Oakeshott (Lyne, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

Yes, as I hear the stopwatches start and the bets get laid on how long I am going to speak for, I did consider being somewhat cute in final words, taking 17 words or 17 seconds to round out 17 years, 17 days and 17 minutes; but there was this overwhelming urge inside of me that says when you have the microphone to use it and say what you think. That won out in the end so, sorry, you are going to suffer one last time.

I have just come from a morning tea with some committee staff on the Public Accounts Committee, staff on the NBN committee, friends, people seconded from Indonesia, staff who have travelled from home, some who work here on a more regular basis, family who have travelled, Tony Windsor's family, and a few MPs and the Auditor-General who dropped in to that morning tea as well. The Parliamentary Budget Officer dropped in—the new Parliamentary Budget Officer—he said I have to stop calling him that, and that is why I have. Like all who have done valedictories and mentioned the staff in the building, I use this as an opportunity to just capture everyone in this place as a way of saying a very big thank you. I support strongly the words that have been said by everyone about the cleaners, the drivers and the works. You do a valuable job. There is a great spirit and camaraderie. The confidentiality is something that we should not take lightly. I have certainly appreciated it in my five years in this place and it is something that I hope continues and is respected.

It has been 17 years in public life. It has been six elections and five years here—and three at the front end of this under the pump from all of you. There have been 585 bills negotiated through this place, 300 private members' motions and bills and an awful lot of committee work. And the moment is right for me. I am basically a bit tired. A curious mind has explored this place and is looking forward to new challenges. I would not and could not go into an election campaign and into three more years and be a 90 per cent politician rather than a 100 per cent politician. So, to be honest to myself and my community, the time is right for me. To put to bed any of those allegations made by some that it is some sort of fear of losing, nothing could be further from the truth.

Ms Gillard interjecting

Thank you, Julia. The ballot box is something that, if it was to be feared, none of us would be here. It is a game that we all have to in some way be ready to lose. I can say to everyone in this room that I hope you understand that any of that mischief simply is not true. It is less about any fear of losing and more about a respect for winning. In the next three years I have some other commitments, and four of them you can see bouncing around the public gallery, and hopefully they make it to the end of these words—hello. That is just an example of mine and of my heart. Whilst fully honoured by the joys of this place and the need for reform in our country, there are greener pastures and greater challenges for me.

I will reflect on some of the history—and it will be, I think, only five points. Firstly, I hope history when it is written does not write these as difficult years of minority government. These have been incredibly rewarding years for, I hope, everyone involved to be here in this moment in time—an extraordinary moment of time that none of us chose and there was no manual for. We all had to in the most subjective of professions try to work it out as best we could with what we had. It has been an enriching experience to be part of that and rewarding for the nation due to the amount of reform work that has been achieved. I hope the convenient rhetoric does not kill the reality.

I have mentioned the sheer number of bills that have passed—87 per cent of which were bipartisan and 13 per cent are in dispute. I know the Australian cricket team does not like that number, but 87 per cent bipartisan and 13 per cent in dispute to me sounds about right in any parliament with any government. In parliaments past or future, I think that sort of number would be the same. That amount of work has had some big issues of substance.

Agreements were reached at the start of this parliament and handshakes done. People looked each other in the eyes and said that we were going to do this, this and this. That has pretty well all been delivered. We have made it. The fact that we are here today on the last sitting day of a full term proves that point. Supply has been delivered. In a bipartisan way, three budgets have passed. Confidence has been delivered in the parliament. There has not been a motion of no confidence. Even today there was no motion of no confidence in the executive government or in a Prime Minister moved.

People are going to write about political parties and the internal issues involved. In my view, on one side there has been an enormous amount of instability on full show over the last three years. As well, from the other side, there has been a grabbing of the opportunity strategically to shake the tree as hard as possible and to destabilise it. From my point of view as, ultimately, a loyalist to the parliament and a loyalist to the office of Prime Minister, I leave optimistic and confident that parliamentary democracy and the parliament itself is stronger than all of it. Again, the very fact that we are here today proves that point.

I leave as someone who made law. I was joking about it before with someone. There are eight private members' bills that have passed the parliament. I sponsored two of them. One made it halfway there. It was the Bali bill that got through this House in a very emotional debate and then got knocked off in the Senate for a whole number of reasons. I think it is the unfinished business of future parliaments, whoever is in them, to resolve the issues in and around asylum seeker and refugee issues that are dressing themselves up as border protection issues and the either/or choices that are being put to the Australian community—it is either onshore or offshore; it is either community detention or mandatory detention; it is either Malaysia or Manus Island. This is not an either/or choice; it is going to be a little bit of everything. That is the answer. The regional solution and working with near neighbours is the direction that I hope remains the bipartisan direction through that Bali process, established in 2002 and continuing on today. So that was the one that did not make it.

The one that did make it, though, was the Auditor-General Amendment Bill, which allows the Auditor-General to follow the money trail. I was joking with the member for Melbourne and the member for Kingsford Smith earlier. Hearing the news that the member for Kingsford Smith is leaving disappoints me but certainly I will see him in the surf somewhere. I was making the point to them that the Australian Education Bill is arguably the significant reform of this parliament. I think to blow up a funding formula that was rubbish and leading to disadvantage is a credit to everyone involved. So, jokingly, I was saying, 'I got my Auditor-General's bill through.' The member for Melbourne kindly said he ran into someone on the streets of the Melbourne who said that was really important. So one person noticed.


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